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American Horror Story - Checking In (Season Premiere) - Review: "Room 64"


 
   American Horror Story is back ! The Hotel Cortez opened its door last Wednesday on FX, and it was great ! Especially considering after last year terrible season (sorry Freaks).
   "Checking In" was the best season opener since Murder House's pilot, and I felt so good to watch AHS back to what it's supposed to be as a TV show. It was disturbing, captivating and fun in the same time. I think I was more surprised during that hour than I ever were during the 13 Freakshow episodes. I was trying to guess all the time what would happen next and I kept being amazed but what Murphy and Falchuk pulled out. Finally, AHS is back !


    "Checking In" was such a mysterious episode, and it was all those mysteries that really made this episode special and so interesting. In the last two seasons, Coven and Freaks, there weren't that much mysteries, not as well constructed and dark as in Murder House and Asylum. It's probably what made those seasons so different and, IMO, less enjoyable to watch.
   Coven was purposely lighter and funnier but Freakshow never really worked. But, for Hotel, the dark secrets and mysteries are back, and that part got me really excited for this year !
   The Cortez Hotel is such a wonderful and magnificent place. I really didn't picture it like that in my mind but the surprise was pleasant. The place is a really piece of art, it's fabulous and so big. I can't wait to discover more of the place and its secrets. Of course, in "Checking In", room 64 was the most intriguing place in the hotel. But I'll get to that later.


   First, of course, we were introduced to the receptionist : Iris (Kathy Bates). It's always such a delight to watch Bates on screen, especially on AHS (I will never forget Madame LaLaurie) she's just fabulous and that Iris character promises us some great moments from Bates. Iris is cold but so funny to watch and her relationship with Sally (Sarah Paulson) is going to be a fun part for a couple of episodes I'm sure. They're so mean to each other, kinda reminded me of Constance and the maid. Their dynamic was great and finally Bates and Paulson are having screen time together. They're such perfect together, it was time they played characters who are connected to each other. And their characters' connection came with a twist !
   So, at first Iris, the receptionist, took care of two young pretty blonde girls arriving in LA. When they found a man (?) badly injured (burnt and with disgusting horrible teeth. What the hell was he ?) trapped in their mattress, (what the hell was he doing here ?). It was super weird, after five seasons Murphy and his team can still pull out crazy ideas, and that's why we love AHS right.
   Iris sent the girls to room 64 ! It looked good at first but of course it wasn't. One girl fell asleep on the bed, time went by and at 2:25 the alarm went off and she found her friend being bitten by children in the bathroom. Okay... The Hotel Cortez is definitely a messed up place. What the hell is room 64 .


   Then, it turned out both girls were alive and Iris was keeping them trapped in cage, feeding them a very tasty mixture (made of oyster and kidneys) to clean their blood of their drugs (and so The Countess could eat them ? ). But Sally interrupted them and after Iris left her in charge she let one girl leave. The poor tourist didn't run very far, as Gaga... The Countess was waiting for her at the entrance and cut her throat with her fabulous pointy glove. (I think I know who I'm going to be for Halloween this year).
   Clearly there was a high tension between Iris and Sally. They hate each other and a flashback to 1994 explained everything (and raised more questions !). Sally was taking drugs with Donovan (Matt Bomer), nowdays The Countess' lover, who turned out to be Iris' son (and who looked exactly the same as today). Of course, Iris hated Sally because she's a cold bitch and she was putting her son life in danger. And then the big twist came when Sally was looking at a window, and Iris pushed her. Finally, Sarah Paulson's character died on AHS ! Five years to wait to watch her play dead but it was totally worth it. The whole scene was so perfect, with the Eagles's music "Hotel California" (they had to put that song) and Sally's fall was so brutal and shocking. I think it left me breathless for 5 seconds. So, the ghosts are back this year, I guess LA is a ghosty area. Sally died in 1994 and her spirit still hangs in the Cortez, looking exactly the same. Gaga and Donovan look exactly the same in 1994 and today too, but they're not ghosts, they're vampires ! I'm not a huge fan of vampires but damn, they totally rocked.


   Lady Gaga was absolutely fabulous in "Checking In". I never had any doubts about her performance, I'm not one of her Monster but, I have followed her art and I have enjoyed most of it and her style seemed totally adequate with the AHS universe. She has never been afraid of the gore, the sex, the disturbing and the blood. And as an actress, she was excellent, totally convincing,
   Her introduction scene with Matt Bomer (I can't even mention how hot he was), on "She Wants Revenge" by Tear You Apart was honestly one the best scene of the entire show. It was perfect, probably the best character introduction in AHS, even tough it felt sometimes like a Gaga’s video except she wasn’t singing. But the weird outfit, the kinky sex and the blood are totally her things.
   But she didn’t say a word during her 6 minutes intro and then she barely speaks but Gaga was excellent with her presence on screen. Yet, we still knew a little about The Countess. She likes cocaine, sex and blood.
   Her scene with Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) shed more light on her character. She’s clearly a very controlling and determined woman, she has her plans, she knows what she wants but she also knows when to play nice. She’s like the new Jessica Lange character. Murphy has a thing for that kind of woman (Constance, Jude, Fiona, Elsa) As he’s always very talented, and the actresses are great, it's always thrilling to watch those characters on the show.


   The Countess welcomed Drake, the new owner of the Hotel Cortez. Another twist, and it felt like Murder House with Christine Estabrook back as Marty the realtor. Iris and Liv Taylor (Dennis O'Hare) didn’t like Drake's arrival, they feared it would mean the end for the Hotel as they know it.
   But The Countess showed more optimism, she clearly had something in my mind, something dark of course. And she wasted no time, as she took Drake’s child and showed him to her special room. It wasn’t that scary at first, it looked like the perfect trap room for pedophiles to lure kids in. It was a big couch and giant screens with all kinds of videos games and of course, candies. What the hell The Countess is doing with those kids ? And why does she have Lowe’s missing son with her ? When I first saw the weird children on the promo pic for AHS Hotel I didn’t really think they were real characters. Having children vampires is so twisted and scary. I really hope they will get even scarier than the ones on The Strain.


   And finally, there was Wes Bentley’s part as Det. Lowe. I must say I was really thrilled when they announced Bentley would be back for this season. His performance was one of the highlight of last season (along with Angela Bassett’s Desiree). In “Checking In”, Bentley offered a whole new game with his new character and he was great. I’m not usually fan of the TV cop character, but Westley really brought something darker and touching in the same time to Det Lowe.
   He first appeared on a weird murder scene, one of the weirdest of AHS. I tried to describe it to my co worker and I finally ended up showing her the scene because it was needed to be watched. I have no idea how this murder will tie to the story in the Hotel but I’m pretty sure I will love the surprise.
   Det. Lowe ended up in the Hotel after a weird phone call, from the killer telling him about room 64. We knew something was happening in that room with Gabriel (Max Greenfield), Sally and the weirdest and scariest character of the episode... I don’t even know how to call it. It's the new rubber man !


   Poor Greenfield was being raped, with Sally at his side while Liv Taylor was showing Lowe the way to the room. But when he walked in the room, everything was clean and tidy. (That room is so weird). So, he lied on the bed (he must have felt tired right ?) and he fell asleep and the same weird thing happened, like in the intro. The alarm went off at 2;25 (I want to know what happened at that time in this room !) and Lowe saw his missing boy by the bed. Of course when he followed him, he had disappeared. Because he's one of The Countess's kids playing games and eating candies. What a coincidence Lowe ended at the same place his missing boy was.
   Lowe has lost his child at a fair 5 years ago, that’s why he’s so dark and silent. Bentley perfectly played that part, his screams at the fair totally broke my heart. It also explained his marital problems. His wife was very cold with him since we first heard her, but their daughter was super fun. Unfortunately, something awful happened at their house, two eviscerated male bodies were found and so Lowe decided to check in the Cortez Hotel. Great idea, the party can start now, I’m just missing Angela Bassett’s character !


   “Checking In” was an excellent episode, probably one of the best AHS episodes in a long time. I feared Jessica Lange’s absence would ruin the show but maybe it was the right challenge for Murphy and his team. This year, they couldn't rely on her performance and so they had to construct a more twisted and mysterious story with all the characters. There were so many mysteries and questions raised in “Checking In”, and so many surprises too, just like in Murder House and Asylum. And it’s exactly what I love on AHS.
   Plus, the soundtrack was so good, it really made the episode special and added more to the weird atmosphere. Iris was right, the place totally grew on me and left wanting for more ! Can’t wait for episode 2 already. I have a feeling this season is gonna be epic !
   What's the burning question you need an answer now, ? What did you think of “Checking In” ? Which is your favorite character for now ? Hit the comments !

Vampires Notes :
- I’m glad Murphy played with the vampire mythology. The Countess and Donovan’s gloves are so beautiful and it’s a nice change for the vampires.
- God I gave so many questions about the story. I wish it was a Netflix season so I could binge watch it.
- Liv Taylor might become my favorite character this year. Dennis O Hare I love you.
- Greenfield’s part was short but he was so good. It was both fun and sad. I really hope we’ll see him again soon. He’s a ghost now, right ?
- "I'm the cleanest person you know" Not so sure about that Sally...
- Is it me or all the men on AHS are freaking hot ? Bentley, BomerGreenfield, Jackson… Wow.
- "I heard you the first time" Well hello to you too Iris.
- Such a delight to see Mare Winningham back.
- So who has the best ass : Bomer or Greenfield ?

About the Author - Romain Ossust
I'm a 29 TV addict. Here is a non exhaustive list of my favorite shows : 12 Monkeys, Ab Fab, 24, Alias, American Horror Story, Banhsee, Bates Motel, Black Sails, Carnivale, Daredevil, Daria, Dead Like Me, Desperate Housewives, Dexter, ER, Fargo, Fringe, Game of Thrones, Girls, Grey’s, Hannibal, Homeland, HIMYM, HTGAWM, Looking, Lost, Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, Medium, OUAT, OUAT Wonderland, Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black, Pan Am, Penny Dreadful, Person of Interest, Power, Pushing Daisies, Raising Hope, Rectify, Reign, Scandal, Sex & The City, Six Feet Under, Sleepy Hollow, Spartacus, The 100, The Affair, The Americans, The Big C, The Fall, The Killing, The Leftovers, The Missing, The Strain, The Tudors, The Walking Dead, Transparent, True Blood, True Detective, Tyrant, Ugly Betty, United States of Tara, Utopia, V, Veronica Mars, Weeds.
For SpoilerTV, I'm reviewing The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, Banshee, American Horror Story, Wicked City, Westworld, Bates Motel, Girls, & Orphan Black
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